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John Hancock
by [?]

A very slight study of Colonial history will show any student that, for two centuries, the ministers in New England occupied very much the same position in society that the priest did during the Middle Ages. As the monks kept learning from dying off the face of the earth, so did the ministers of the New World preserve culture from passing into forgetfulness. Very seldom, indeed, were books to be found in a community except at the minister’s. And during the Seventeenth Century, and well into the Eighteenth, he combined in himself the offices of doctor, lawyer, preacher and teacher. Mr. Lowell has said: “I can not remember when there was not one or more students in my father’s household, and others still who came at regular intervals to recite. And this was the usual custom. It was the minister who fitted boys for college, and no youth was ever sent away to school until he had been drilled by the local clergyman.”

And it must further be noted that genealogical tables show that very nearly all of the eminent men of New England were sons of ministers, or of an ancestry where ministers’ names are seen at frequent intervals. As an intellectual and moral force, the minister has now but a rudiment of the power he once exercised. The tendency to specialize all art and all knowledge has to a degree shorn him of his strength. And to such an extent is this true, that within forty years it has passed into a common proverb that the sons of clergymen are rascals, whereas in Colonial days the highest recommendation a youth could carry was that he was the son of a minister.

The Reverend John Hancock, grandfather of John Hancock the patriot, was for more than half a century the minister of Lexington, Massachusetts. I say “the minister,” because there was only one: the keen competition of sect that establishes half a dozen preachers in a small community is a very modern innovation.

John Hancock, “Bishop of Lexington,” was a man of pronounced personality, as is plainly seen in his portrait in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. They say he ruled the town with a rod of iron; and when the young men, who adorned the front steps of the meetinghouse during service, grew disorderly, he stopped in his prayer, and going outside soundly cuffed the ears of the first delinquent he could lay hands upon. In his clay there was a dash of facetiousness that saved him from excess, supplying a useful check to his zeal–for zeal uncurbed is very bad. He was a wise and beneficent dictator; and government under such a one can not be improved upon. His manner was gracious, frank and open, and such was the specific gravity of his nature that his words carried weight, and his wish was sufficient.

The house where this fine old autocrat lived and reigned is standing in Lexington now. When you walk out through Cambridge and Arlington on your way to Concord, following the road the British took on their way out to Concord, you will pass by it. It is a good place to stop and rest. You will know the place by the tablet in front, on which is the legend: “Here John Hancock and Samuel Adams were sleeping on the night of the Eighteenth of April, Seventeen Hundred Seventy-five, when aroused by Paul Revere.”

The Reverend Jonas Clark owned the house after the Reverend John Hancock, and the ministries of those two men, and their occupancy of the house, cover one hundred years and five years more. Here the thirteen children of Jonas Clark were born, and all lived to be old men and women. When you call there I hope you will be treated with the same gentle courtesy that I met. If you delay not your visit too long, you will see a fine, motherly woman, with white “sausage curls” and a high back-comb, wearing a check dress and felt slippers, and she will tell you that she is over eighty, and that when her mother was a little girl she once sat on Governor Hancock’s knee and he showed her the works in his watch.